cannabis in puerto rico

Were Puerto Ricans Using Cannabis 2,500 Years Ago?

A new study shows that the use of cannabis in Puerto Rico could date back 2,500 years!

A research paper recently published in Science Advances revealed that the first human use of the cannabis plant occurred 2,500 years ago. This means that people may have been using cannabis in Puerto Rico for a very long time.

cannabis in Puerto Rico

Past researchers have discovered the plant and its seeds in various archaeological sites. But this new evidence found in Central Asia is the first to signal marijuana use for psychoactive purposes.

The cannabis plant can serve many different functions. In the past, people used it as a fiber for clothing or rope, as an oil for nutrients, or even as a tool for ritualistic ceremonies. Because it’s so versatile, past archeologists didn’t know for sure whether evidence signified psychoactive use.

But scientists have discovered new evidence of psychoactive cannabis use… 

cannabis in puerto ricoArchaeologists recently found 10 wooden bowls in burial sites at Jirzankal Cemetery in far-western China. After an international research team studied studied the contents of those bowls, they discovered something interesting.  Inside the bowls were small stones that had been exposed to high temperatures. The team identified these stones as braziers used to burn incense or other plants. The chemicals found in those braziers revealed that 9 out of 10 contained cannabis! What’s more, the chemical signature in that cannabis was different from any that has been discovered before.

How do we know the cannabis was used for psychoactive reasons?

The Jirzankal cannabis contained molecular remnants of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the chemical that creates psychoactive effects. Scientists believe, then, that the cannabis found in other sites was used for clothing and rope. But Jirzankal cannabis would have been used for psychoactive purposes.

But there’s something even more remarkable: the cannabis found in Jirzankal contained higher levels of mind-changing compounds than any other ancient location of cannabis. Scientists believe that people may have been gathering certain kinds of cannabis that had more potent levels of THC.

The study has sparked lots of comment from others in the field.

One comment was from Robert Spengler, director of paleoethnobotany laboratories at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. He believes that even 2,500 years ago, humans were seeking out specific plants for chemical production. He also said it gives us the only concrete evidence that humans used marijuana plants for psychoactive effects.

According to Mark Merlin, an ethnobotanist at the University of Hawaii, “the wide diversity in cannabis around the world today is a testament to how long people have been involved with the plant and harnessed its many uses.”

The History of Cannabis in Puerto Rico

While we don’t yet have any archaeological evidence of early cannabis use in Puerto Rico, we can trace its development back quite a ways.

cannabis in puerto ricoThe first known human activity on the island of Puerto Rico dates back to 1000 BC. At this time,  hunting and gathering inhabitants known as The Ortoiroid settled in caves and open spaces there. The Saladoid tribe later displaced the Ortoiroid around 430 and 250 BC. Between the seventh and 11th centuries, the Arawak likely settled on the island. This period saw the rise of the Taino culture, which became dominant in 1000 AD. The Taino were known to to chew, smoke, and snuff medicinal cannabis.

Now, medical marijuana is legal and thriving in Puerto Rico.

How does a study like this one help us now?

Studies like the one published in Science Advances help to normalize the use of medicinal marijuana. When people see that the practice has been a natural part of human history, they are more accepting of it.  It’s possible that we could see more evidence of early marijuana use  from different areas of the world.

To learn more about the ancient history of hemp and cannabis use, visit this article.

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